Divorce can be a stressful, confusing and upsetting experience. Even though emotions can overcome common sense, it is best to carefully navigate the divorce process in order to legally and financially protect yourself.
Divorce Attorneys are Almost Always Necessary
In rare cases, some divorcing couples settle their differences, negotiate with each other and file the legal paperwork themselves. However, most people will need to interview a few divorce attorneys before selecting one with at least five to 10 years of hands-on experience practicing divorce and family laws. Ideally, a single attorney will be able to mediate, encourage compromises and act as an unbiased advisor. They will help each party understand their rights and why conceding or agreeing to specific items will save time and money.
Financial Reviews are Important
After a lawyer, be sure to consult with an accountant or financial professional to verify where you and your spouse stand financially. One of the main purposes of the divorce process is to ensure an equitable distribution of debts, assets and property. In order for each party to get their fair share during the divorce negotiations, it is best to work with a neutral financial professional who will determine property ownership, review assets and audit financial accounts. They will also determine who is more responsible to pay marital debts, which are based on which party has more financial resources
Always Close Joint Credit Accounts
Before physical separation and the divorce proceedings begin, try to pay off and close all joint credit accounts. This will prevent a spiteful spouse from purposely using the account to run up charges in your name. If it isn’t possible to pay all the account in full, negotiate with the company and ask to establish a written payment schedule. This will guarantee that the company gets paid and that they do not file anything negative with the credit reporting agencies. If a financial agreement or settlement isn’t feasible, request to have the accounts frozen.
Decide Whether to Stay or Move Out
Many people want to immediately move out before or during the divorce process. However, it is actually best to stay put in the marital home until legal proceedings are completed. If you leave, this could affect property interest and distribution because the spouse who continues to pay the mortgage may be awarded the property. If it is necessary to move out, continue to document that you contribute payments to the mortgage.
Be Prepared to Adjust Your Lifestyle
Depending on the parties involved, divorce proceedings can take a few months or a few years. It becomes especially ugly and stressful when there is a bitter custody battle or an abnormally vengeful spouse. Do not expect normalcy or timely resolutions. If there are children involved, focus on their needs and minimizing their exposure to trauma. Accept that some legal battles may take a long time, so focus on staying positive and planning for the future.
Finally, be sure to spend quality time with friends, family and co-workers.